You don’t need a farm to benefit from composting. You needn’t even a proper garden.
Though composting is invaluable to both of these, providing soil amendment and enrichment, it has many beneficial attributes elsewhere.
Beginning with its immediate surroundings, composting catches up to 99.5 percent of volatile organic chemicals, or VOCs, that may be present on the land. VOCs include heating fuels, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, and even explosives.
These can come from contaminated soil, for which compost acts as a remedy. Composting is a key component for fighting erosion as well as silting, protecting banks that run along lakes, creeks, and rivers. Along roadsides, playing fields, and hillsides, composting prevents not only erosion but also turf loss.
Composting also has economic benefits. Serving as a marketable commodity, its low cost makes it a desirable alternative to landfill cover and artificial soil amendments.
Creating your own compost is easy but it is important to know the proper balance of variables used in composting. To better evaluate your compost, check for the following:
Feedstock and Nutrient Balance
Green organic materials (grass clippings, food scraps, manure) contain large amounts of nitrogen and should be mixed with brown organic materials (dried leaves, wood chips, branches) that have large amounts of carbon.
Smaller particles increase surface area and improve the pile’s insulation. Grinding, shredding, and chipping are good methods to keep sizes down. You don’t want particles too small, however, as they won’t allow proper airflow.
In order for microorganisms to survive, they need exposure to moisture. Many organic materials contain varying amounts of moisture. Moisture can also come from rainfall.
Proper oxygen flow allows decomposition to occur at a faster rate. Turning the pile with a pitchfork or rake helps aerate the pile. As does the addition of bulking agents like wood chips and shredded newspaper. Just don’t go overboard with bulking agents, as too much oxygen will dry your pile out.
Temperature is important to keep microorganisms active. To keep decomposition going at a faster rate, certain temperatures are needed. Microbial activity will raise the pile’s temperature to 140 F and beyond, killing weed seeds and pathogens. If the temperature does not continue to rise, rotting can occur. Each of the previous steps can help keep temperature in check.
There are many compost-able items and some of them may surprise you. Not only can coffee grounds be added to your compost pile but coffee filters as well. Fruit and vegetable remains are great additions, supplying the pile with nutrients.
Certain items should not be added to compost piles. Although manure is often used as soil enrichment, other wastes, like pet waste can contain parasites and bacteria harmful to humans and should be avoided. Meat and fish scraps, charcoal, fireplace ashes and Black walnut tree trimmings should also be excluded.
With that said, why not start a compost pile today? Chances are spare branches and food scraps abound anyway. They would fair much better in compost than they would rotting in a landfill.
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